Yesterday, shortly after the world woke up to find that the UK had voted 48.1% - 51.9% to leave the European Union, Martin McGuinness the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, called for a border poll on uniting the island of Ireland.
Similarly to Scotland, where another independence referendum is now under strong consideration, the majority of those in Northern Ireland who voted in Brexit did not wish to leave the EU, with 55.7% voting with the “Remain” side.
The victory of the “Leave” side puts both Northern Ireland and Ireland in precarious positions, with a lot of the fluid trade, immigration and economic agreements now hanging in the balance and the possibility of a closed border, which many believe would harken back to the check-points of the Troubles, looming on the horizon.
Per the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the Secretary of State can call for a border poll on the question of uniting Ireland if it appears that “the majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.”
"The British government now has no democratic mandate to represent the views of the North in any future negotiations with the European Union and I do believe that there is a democratic imperative for a 'border poll' to be held," McGuinness told RTE.
“This decision to drag us out of the European Union against our democratically expressed wishes, has nothing to do with issues around the European institutions and everything to do with the civil war within the British Tory party,” he later told the Irish Times.
“The people of the north of Ireland, nationalists, republicans, unionists and others have made it clear at the polls that they wish to remain in the EU,” he added.
His call for a vote was supported by his fellow members of Sinn Fein, but dismissed by Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster, who welcomed the result of the Brexit vote, and by Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who commented that there are much more pressing matters to deal with.